Retreat Journal #202

Retreat # 202 May 22 – 26, 2011 Irons Homestead, Chepachet, Rhode Island

Sunday, May 2, 2011

The brethren gathered on Sunday evening: Bro. Prior Jerry Fritz, Bro. Tom Campbell, Bro. Ken Landin, Bro. David Keller, and novice Bro. Herb Henry, who came at the persistent invitation of Bro. Jerry, in the Lodge of the Irons Homestead Conference Center.  Sister Jennifer Geary had arrived earlier, dropped off provisions, set up her room, and left for a parish commitment.  She returned much later in the night, after the brethren retired for sleep. 

We grieved the absence of Bros. Les Norman and Marsh Hudson-Knapp, both of whom had intended to join us, but were not able. 

This is a new location for the “Southern” Retreat of the New England Chapter of BSOW, suggested by Sr. Jennifer.  The Lodge has a central meeting space, with a screened porch, spacious bathrooms, and a small but well-appointed kitchen.  Two dormitory wings offer ample sleeping quarters.  Just right for a group such as ours!

The sky was overcast, but we took to the porch nonetheless for light conversation.  As the evening waned, Bro. Jerry invited us inside, where we shared the sacrament of communion by candlelight and flashlight. 

Early Monday morning, we were awakened to the sound of rain, which let up by the time of the morning bell.  There was Sr. Jennifer, assisting Bro. Jerry in the kitchen.  Welcome!  Breakfast was simple fare of cereal, toast, and fruit. 

Following breakfast, we all walked to a field below the lodge, where we hoisted the flag of the Order, and, with Bro. Jerry leading us in prayer, officially opened our retreat.

Bro. Ken was morning chaplain.  He began with a devotional message from Macrina Wiederkehr’s Seasons of Your Heart, reminding us to take off our shoes, as Moses did, and notice the presence of God.  He then read a most insightful selection from M. Craig Barnes’ The Pastor as Minor Poet, in which the author, following T.S. Elliot’s notion that there are few major poets, but many minor poets whose voice is important, suggests that the message of scripture and the saints is our faith’s major poetry, and local pastors are our minor poets, bringing the witness of tradition to bear on the people and processes of the local church.

The hour for silence announced by Bro. Tom’s bell, we each retired to rest and reflection, waiting and wondering whether the weather would clear sufficient for outdoor refreshment later in the day or the week. 

Respectfully Submitted, Bro. David Keller, cccxxxii.


Monday, May 23, 2011 PM

We enjoyed a lunch of tomato soup, ham & cheese sandwiches with cookies and fruit for dessert.  Bro. Tom shared homemade cookies.  We lingered around the table catching up on years of happenings.  For afternoon recreation, some read, some ran, some caught up with old friends.  We re-gathered at 4 PM to listen to Bach’s aria and Goldberg variations; Bobby Ferrin’s Gabriel Faurie-Pavane; three selections from the Maple Leaf 7; Pepper Joslin’s Psalms of the Wood.  We then made our way to the screen porch to praise God with voice, singing from the New Century Hymnal. 

A delicious supper of baked fish, scalloped potatoes, and tossed salad was shared.  We finished it off with strawberry shortcake and whipped cream.  While the supper dishes were being done and kitchen cleaned up, Bro. David shared a CD of Hadestown

As evening chaplain, Bro. David read from Collected Poems by Wendell Berry; 2 sermons from The Threat of Life by Walter Brueggemann; and the day’s reading from All Saints by Robert Ellsberg.  This was followed by silence.

A service of Holy Communion was celebrated around the table.  We continued in conversation about how we help those who come to our churches looking for aid. 

Respectfully Submitted, Sis. Jennifer Geary

Tuesday, May 24, 2011 AM

When I arose from bed I found Bro. Gerry already in the kitchen getting breakfast ready.   He was soon joined by Bro. David and soon we were enjoying a breakfast of OJ, oatmeal with brown sugar and raisins and a dash of milk with blueberry muffins on the side.   Before this repast could be properly ingested Sr. Jennifer properly blessed our food.   Bits and bites of humor were interspersed with eating. 

Breakfast was quickly cleaned away and at 9 AM Sr. Jennifer read to us Psalm51, from “Yearnings” by Rabbi Irwin Kula (Hypernion Books),   the chapter “Inspiration and Illumination” and part of “Practice of Being”, concluding with Psalm 51.  I was particularly impressed with the contrast of the two creation stories, the first with the creation of man and man as the caretaker of creation.  Genesis 2 has the creation finished with man and God telling him to enjoy the garden.  That allows time for just being rather than a constant need to produce.

Silent time was most enjoyable as I finished my sermon for Sunday and then walked about the grounds, walking the labyrinth and to the end of the property.  The sun through the trees was very lovely.  At noon the bell rang and we were ready for lunch.

Respectfully submitted,

Bro. Tom Campbell, CCXXXll

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

A delicious lunch of tuna fish to be taken on bread or in wraps, accompanied by assorted pickles was prepared and served Bro. Jerry & Bro. David.   Sr. Jennifer offered a prayer of blessing as we all came to the table.   In the most loving and jocular manner, it was duly noted that Sr. Jennifer had left a number of important items at home on her kitchen counter.   The lack of said missing items did not detract from the spirit of fellowship we shared.    It was also duly noted that at our breakfast gathering, Bro. Jerry had prophesied that a bright sunny sky would replace the rainy and misty gloom we had been enduring since our arrival.  Lo and behold, as we shared the mid-day meal, Bro. Fritz’s prophecy was fulfilled.  There was light, sunshine, and great warmth abounding.

In light of the sunny weather, bicycles were ridden, joggers jogged, and walkers walked about the area.  Some chose to just sit on the porch in the shade and read.

Our music enjoyment period was presented by Bro. Ken, with selections from a CD by Paul Sullivan.  Two selections were evocative of seagulls crying and surf crashing on a beach, and the sounds of loons on a lake with crashing thunder interrupting the solitude.

At the appointed time, our group adjourned to the front porch of the lodge to face west, throw open the door and lustily share in some hymn-singing.   Such joy, energy and enthusiasm abounded that it amazes the mind that, reminiscent of a lovely Walt Disney cartoon movie (think Bambi,) small animals – bunnies, songbirds, deer and such – did not gather at the edge of the surrounding forest to listen in great rapture.

The evening meal was prepared by Bro. Jerry and Sr. Jennifer.  Breaded chicken, baked potatoes, fresh green salad, and broccoli were served.  Chocolate pudding with fresh whipped cream completed a delicious meal.

Bro. Tom led us in our evening reading.  Selections from “The Threat of Life – Sermons on Pain, Power and Weakness,” by Walter Brueggemann (“Taking a Second Painful Look, ““I Will Do It; But You Go”, and “Trusting in the Water-Food-Oil Supply”) were read.    These thought-provoking readings were followed by a time of silent prayer.

Bro. Tom closed the evening with a vesper service which included the Lord’s Supper.  As is the tradition, following the benediction the gathered body finished off the remaining bread and cup.  A period of relaxed conversation by candlelight brought the day and evening to a nice conclusion.

Respectfully submitted, Bro. Herb Henry

 Wednesday, May 25, 2011 AM report

Awoke this morning before daylight by the subtle yet powerful hooting of night owls in the oaks.  The night rain cleared to reveal a shower of sunlight on the tops of the spring green trees.  A great day ahead.  Bro. Jerry did a great job with the bacon and eggs this morning.  He told a stewardship joke about a chicken, a pig, a dozen eggs and a pound of bacon.  It’s all about commitment.  At meal we discussed the importance of clergy boundaries and the great need for truth and spirit in honoring our commitments with love and care.

We gathered for morning reading on the front porch, dappled in the rising daylight, the cool spring air flowing free, as the birds sang along above our heads.  Bro. Herb read from Rabbi Irwin Kula’s book “Yearnings” on the chapter searching for meaning.  The reading asks us, what is “holy?” Not to be only the well-ordered pious life, the holy is really defined as “life-intensity” full of the messiness of life.  If the kitchen were always clean, then there would be no meals!  Our teen-aged daughter’s messy room is not messy to her!  The Bible encourages us to see the holy in disarray.  Job’s messy life evokes the poetry of God’s grandeur.  Adam and Eve had paradise; they yearned for more, and found real life!

We read from Edwin Friedman’s “Friedman’s Fables” in which we see the question of those placing burdens on us, are we ready for responsibility?  When others hang their life on our hope, we give back to the other their own responsibility to hope in more.

We entered into silent time with the beauty of the day surrounding us.  These glorious days of Sabbath rest for our souls sitting in silence in God’s great sun—endured with a felicity which enraptures the soul, which glides into our thoughts with a healing sympathy—these hours do not push each other out—these hours soothe our sadness and our madness away…though we have long left the sanctuary of our church this week, the Sabbath Day Rest surrounds us wherever we go!

Lunch brought grilled cheese and the annual joke table talk.  Best not to repeat any here, not for the sake of propriety, but rather, so as not to weary any other travellers with the burden of heavy groaning.

Following lunch we immediately held our business meeting.  At the conclusion of the meeting we go to greet the rest of this great day with hearts, hands, and souls ready for what the Spirit seeks to give.

After Meeting, we agreed Bro. David would go for a swim in the lake so as to provide a sermon illustration for our preaching this week.

Respectfully submitted, Bro. Ken Landin {please input BSOW #, thanks}

Wednesday, May 25, 2011 PM

The afternoon weather was magnificent!  Sister Jennifer and Brother Ken both went for runs; Bros. David and Tom both went swimming – and the water was quite pleasant, not too cold.  How their swim will appear as a sermon illustration, and in whose sermon, is currently unknown. 

We regrouped for music selected by Sr. Jennifer:  a piece by Petra, another by Bert Marshall, and a long selection from Vivaldi. 

  Then, singing out on the porch, again, delightful. 

Hamburgers were on the evening menu, and, given that the lodge has a grill, it was determined not only that the burgers be cooked on the grill, but that we eat outside.  Bro. Jerry fired up the grill, and he and Bro. David fetched a picnic table from the pavilion.  By the time they returned, rather thick black smoke was pouring from the grill.  It appears that a previous user had allowed much grease to accumulate below the burners, which, when it ignited, was rather spectacular.  Fortunately, the burgers had yet to find their way to the grill.  Dinner turned out to be quite a feast, with many toppings for the burgers, chips, and salad and peas just to make us think we were eating healthy.  Dessert was fantastic apple crisp, thanks to Sr. Jennifer, topped by her homemade whipped cream.

Following dinner, we gathered on the porch for the evening reading. Brother Ken treated us to two essays from This Odd and Wondrous Calling, by Lillian Daniel and Martin Copenhaver.  Daniel’s story of participating in a faith community response to injustice against hotel employees challenged us to be ‘shapers of culture.’  Then, we went inside for the Altar of the Way and our final sharing of communion.  Prior Jerry called us to the altar.  Brother Tom explained the items making up the altar.  Sister Jennifer read the six obligations or privileges of the Order.  We concluded with shared prayer for each other and for those members of the Order who we knew needed prayer, in particular, Bro. Marsh, who had hoped to attend but remained at home due to family concerns, and Bro. Les, who had planned to come but is recuperating from surgery.  Our evening ended with conversation about faithfulness of clergy in the face of various church conflicts. 

Thursday, May 26, 2011 AM

All were up before the bell, beginning to pack up for the return trip home.  Breakfast began at 7:30.  We enjoyed waffles, sausage, and fruit for breakfast.  Bro. Tom’s rhubarb sauce and whipped creamed made an excellent topping as did the real maple syrup.  Following breakfast a general clean-up of the facilities occurred.

 At 9 AM Bro. David read to about St. Philip Neri, All the Saints by Robert Ellsberg.  We also heard 3 poems by Wendell Berry.  From Barnes, The Pastor as the Minor Poet.

Morning readings were followed by 15 mins of silence.  After silence we went to the field to lower the flag.  Bro. Jerry closed us in prayer.  Cars were packed and most went on their way.  Bro. David stayed to take a long bike ride and shower before turning home.

Respectfully submitted, Sr. Jennifer Geary